For all of the potential that the iPhone has as gaming platform, it is hamstrung by the lack of buttons. Early shooter games for iOS used virtual thumbsticks to try to simulate the layout of a console gamepad. This rarely worked well and gave rise to shooters that took advantage of the accelerometer in mobile phones. With this, players could aim by moving their phone around instead of sliding their thumbs around on the screen. It is a better set up but it still feels awkward and lacks any tactile sense of firing a real gun. The XAPPR gun accessory fixes this problem by letting gamers attach their mobile device to a gun-shaped peripheral and fire with a functioning trigger.
The XAPPR is shaped like a huge pistol with a cradle at the top where mobile phones can be attached. The cradle is adjustable and can fit a variety of sizes securely. There are built-in speakers on the XAPPR that not only augment the sound, but also saves battery power because the XAPPR is powered by three AAA batteries and connects with a wire via the phone’s headphone jack.
It doesn’t work with any game, but it does come with its own app for finding games that support it. As of this writing there are several free games that support the XAPPR and a handful of commercial apps too. The freebies are mostly simple games like AR Wars, which surrounds the Player with a fleet of tiny virtual space ships that appear to flying around the room.
However the best of the free games is PirateBay which is a lot like a shooting gallery or an oldschool light gun game where players battle pirates and monkeys. It’s by far the most engrossing of the free XAPPR games and will keep players occupied for a while before they inevitably seek out more elaborate games.
Although the free games ensure that buyers have something to do with their XAPPR without an additional purchase, several game developers have created XAPPR compatible versions of their existing commercial apps. These include the kid-friendly Spray’em, which superimposes virtual cartoon bugs around the room, but also some more hardcore titles like AR Dead Raid which has players fighting zombies.
Of the paid apps, SkySiege3D works best. This one gives the Player an assortment of antiaircraft guns and puts them up against waves of incoming helicopters and jets. While many of the XAPPR games use the basic premise of shooting waves of bad guys, SkySiege3D provides the most bang for the buck at the moment. The paid apps range from one to three dollars so players cab grab a few without breaking the bank.
Several of the existing titles have a multiplayer component, so two or more XAPPR owners will be able to play games along the lines of Laser Tag, or practice cowboy quickdraws.
The makers of the XAPPR have an open source dev kit so that developers can create new content for it, and new games are on the way for both iOS and Android. At the moment iOS has a much larger selection of games, but Android users will find a handful of compatible titles for the time being.
As of this writing the XAPPR doesn’t have a killer app. As a piece of hardware, the XAPPR does what it is intended to do: It drastically increases the entertainment value of the apps it is used with, and it makes iPhone shooters readily accessible to non gamers. However the lackluster nature of the free games and the 40-50 dollar price tag will be daunting for some consumers.
Metal Compass, the company that makes the XAPPR also has some other genre-specific peripherals coming out in the future, including a steering wheel and a sword. The XAPPR is available now.